Project I-Campus:
MIT-Microsoft Alliance

Announced October 5, 1999







MS Research



Microsoft Research
A Computing Research Center Dedicated to Pioneering the Future of Technology

Fact Sheet

In 1991, Microsoft Corp. became one of the first software companies to create its own computer science research organization. As part of a dynamic industry that is constantly reinventing itself, Microsoft saw the need to suppo rt long-term computer science research -- research that is not bound by product cycles -- so there would be new foundations and technology breakthroughs for future generations to build upon. Today, with its growing staff of world-renowned scientists, Microsoft® Research is one of the world's largest, fastest-growing and most highly respected software research organizations -- and one that will help define and redefine the computing experience for millions of people for decades to come.

The Goals of Microsoft Research
"We're building the technology that will enable PCs to see, listen, speak and learn so that people can interact with their computers as naturally as they interact with other people." -- Bill Gates

For over a decade, Bill Gates has openly shared his vision for the future of computing. He has predicted a future in which computers will see, listen, speak and learn, and people will be able to access information and resources securely throughout the home, office, enterprise and world. He accurately predicted that computing would be available and accessible in handheld devices and home appliances as well as in traditional desktop and server environments. Gates' vision is reflected in Microsoft's goals to help usher in a new era of personal, business and intellectual communication and to help ensure that tomorrow's computers will be vastly easier to use, always available and more powerful than those of today.

While the industry has made amazing progress over the past few years, still many underlying challenges and problems need to be solved before technology is as ubiquitous and as seamless as Gates' vision. Microsoft Research is dedicated to solving these problems by doing the following:

  • Always looking five to 10 years beyond the current product development cycles to identify and invent key technologies that will impact users in the future
  • Working closely with product development to share short-term results and incorporate those results into Microsoft products
  • Continuing to contribute and collaborate with the entire research community in an effort to expand the circle of knowledge

Today, research projects range from artificial intelligence and inventing new ways for people to interact with computers to improving programming languages and optimizing software tools so developers can work more efficiently. Regardless of what end of the spectrum they inhabit, all projects within Microsoft Research are aimed at simplifying and enhancing the way people interact with technology.

Breakthroughs, Large and Small
While some people believe that being innovative or making a breakthrough means "getting there first," Microsoft takes a much broader view. Being the first to do something is certainly one definition, but in technology, a "breakthrough" or innovation can take years to evolve. In fact, in many cases, like Internet technology or even electronic mail, the impact is only realized after reaching critical mass. Microsoft believes it is a combination of invention and popularization that makes a technology or product innovative. Because of this, it is imperative that today's researchers are given the freedom to devote time and energy to advancing computer science and inventing new technologies over the long term. Groundbreaking technologies of today are built on the fundamental science of decades past.

However, even though most of Microsoft's researchers are focused on long-term goals extending far beyond the current product cycles, their close interactions with the rest of Microsoft allow them to share short-term results with the product development groups. In fact, many major Microsoft products on the market today -- from CD-ROM game titles to enterprisewide system software -- use technology or tools created by Microsoft Research. In several cases, researchers have even followed their ideas to product development. It's this sort of informal atmosphere and free-flow exchange of ideas that encourages the continual "technology transfer" between research and development.

Building a "Global Think Tank"
Currently, Microsoft Research has over 450 employees working across more than 30 disciplines. Microsoft Research realized early on the importance of expanding the organization beyond the United States to tap into the world's pre-eminent computer science talent and is also committed to growing the organization to 600 by 2000. Today, with labs in Beijing and Cambridge, England, in addition to the original headquarters in Redmond, Wash., and a small center in San Francisco, Microsoft Research is building a dynamic organization and attracting some of the world's finest computer scientists.

Microsoft researchers include renowned industry figures whose talents are recognized with prestigious national and international honors. Some of those honors include the National Medal of Technology, the Turing Award of the Association for Computing Machinery and the Fields Medal of the International Mathematical Union (both of which are considered the "Nobel Prizes" of those disciplines). A few Microsoft researchers are also members of the National Academy of Engineering and several have been honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Award ("Oscar") for Technical Achievement.

The quality of the research work is evidenced by Microsoft Research's significant presence at many leading research conferences and in technical journals where submissions are only accepted after strict peer review. This continual interaction and professional service to the research community is a vital part of the lab. In fact, researchers at Microsoft maintain close ties with the research community and their peers worldwide. These interactions include active participation in collaborative research projects with university faculty, the mentoring of graduate students and teaching university courses, as well as providing service to research organizations and other scientific bodies. Microsoft Research also sponsors a graduate fellowship program, summer internship program, postdoctoral studies and faculty sabbaticals.

Microsoft Research encourages the open sharing of ideas with the rest of the research community to help ensure the highest quality research. While it is true that some great ideas may be "lost" to outside companies or universities in this collaborative process, it is also true that great ideas do not happen in a vacuum and peer review is an important element in measuring success. For this reason, Microsoft places a high value on researchers interacting with and contributing to the community as a whole.

A Brief Look at Microsoft Research
Currently, Microsoft Research projects can be categorized into four major areas. For more information on these areas, please visit

Interactivity and Intelligence
For the most part, human communication today centers around spoken and written language. Our interactions with technology could be much more natural if they were based on human language and nonverbal communication and not limited to the technical language of a PC or handheld device. By researching areas like speech recognition, vision technology, computer graphics and user interfaces, researchers at Microsoft are identifying ways to improve human interaction with computers. The goal of this research is to enable computers to better understand the user by inventing underlying technology that allows the computer to more accurately interpret its surroundings. This could be considered the "artificial intelligence" division of Microsoft Research.

Programming Tools and Techniques
As software continues to grow in size and complexity, issues of performance, quality, maintainability and productivity become more critical. If developers can create better-quality software applications more quickly and easily, they can bring their products to market faster and price them lower, which benefits users. Microsoft Research is inventing new programming tools, methodologies and techniques to help developers meet this challenge. Established in March 1999, the Programmer Productivity Research Center is a separate but related MSR effort to assist programmers. With the goal of eventually providing resources to the external developer community, the center works with researchers from both academia and industry to investigate radical programming approaches and then test them in Microsoft's real-world software development environment.

Systems and Architecture
Microsoft Research wants to extend the capabilities of computing systems in a variety of ways. Currently, scientists are researching ways to design operating systems, architectures and components that take advantage of powerful hardware, storage devices and networks available today as well as those of the future. This involves research on higher performance databases, scalable systems based on clusters of machines, distributed systems that can configure and fine-tune themselves, and networks that provide location-independence for users and resources.

Mathematical Sciences
In the mathematical arena, Microsoft Research brings together a range of disciplines -- from computer science theory to cryptography and signal processing -- to address fundamental issues related to its ability to solve difficult computational problems securely and efficiently.

Research Beyond Redmond
While most of Microsoft Research is located at the company's Redmond headquarters, Microsoft Research also maintains facilities in Cambridge, San Francisco and Beijing.

  • Microsoft Research Ltd. Research at the facility in Cambridge is in the areas of programming languages, security, information retrieval, operating systems and networking. Established in June 1997, the lab has grown quickly to more than 40 researchers.
  • Microsoft's Bay Area Research Center (BARC). Established in 1995, BARC researchers work primarily on issues that involve scalable servers and the future of virtual communication ("telepresence").
  • Microsoft Research, China. Founded in 1998, this is Microsoft's newest research center and it is expanding rapidly. As with the other labs, the talents of researchers based there will largely determine the research focus of the Beijing lab. Currently, nearly 50 researchers are developing next-generation multimedia applications and Asia-specific computing technologies such as adapted user interfaces and language conversion systems.


Microsoft is either a registered trademark or trademark of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries.

For more information, please visit the Microsoft Research Web site
or press only:contact Megan Kir kwood or Ben Spotts, Waggener Edstrom, at (503) 443-7000.